- The Annual Cap
- H-1B Cap Exemption
- H-1B Cap Timing Issues
- Find Legal Help From An Experienced H-1B Lawyer
- Tips for Collecting Evidence of Extraordinary Ability
- Building Your Case For Extraordinary Ability
Extraordinary Ability Visa or Green Card
The tips below will help you collect the right evidence for an O-1 temporary visa or an EB-1A immigrant visa petition, even before you meet with an immigration attorney. If you are early in your career and just starting to earn professional accolades and recognition at the national or international level, this guide will help you establish good habits for documenting a future O-1 or EB-1 case. If you have an O1 visa already, it will help you create a stronger foundation for an EB-1A residence case, whether you have a prospective sponsor or plan to file a self-petition. A complete case strategy should always be discussed with counsel, and tailored to your professional field and the nature of your accomplishments, as USCIS adjudication trends, patterns and non-precedent case law change frequently.
1. DO Keep Your Resume or Curriculum Vitae up to Date
Your resume or curriculum vitae is an essential building-block in your case. Include all employment in your field, paid and volunteer work, professional awards, prizes, service on prize juries or editorial boards, publications, editorials about and citations to your work, performances, speaking engagements, peer review, etc. The relevant items will vary widely depending on your field of endeavor. Do not make any exaggerated claims that can be disproven by a diligent fact-checker. Remember that your resume is not evidence of your achievements; it is a statement you make on your own behalf, and it serves only as a guide, like an index, timeline or catalogue for the other evidence you may provide. For those in academia and the sciences, keep a current bibliography and citation index as well as reprints of articles by others that discuss your work at length.
2. DO Keep a Chronological File Documenting Your Accomplishments
Be a pack rat. Keep original evidence of any professional recognition, particularly anything from beyond the four walls of your employer, such as conference programs from public speaking engagements, reprints and reviews of your publications, prize certificates and award letters, and recognition of committee service from professional organizations. Again, what is relevant will vary widely depending on the nature of your work, but the letter “P” is a good place to start: professional prizes, press coverage about you & your work, publications by you (include refereed journal articles, editorials, op-ed, trade & general press articles, books, etc.), peer review by you of scholarly journal articles by others, published reviews authored by you of books or artworks by others, publications by others citing and discussing your work, patents, programs (from performances, exhibitions, award ceremonies, conferences, etc.), press releases, publicity materials, and paystubs – if you are paid significantly more than others in your field. Any published material must show the name & date of the publication, and author’s by-line if there is one. You will need at least three different types of evidence. Self-published material and press releases are accorded little to no evidentiary weight by USCIS.
3. DO Get Translations
Any documents in a foreign language submitted to USCIS in support of a visa petition must be accompanied by notarized English translations, with a sworn oath of accuracy by the translator. The translator may be anyone other than the beneficiary or petitioner, so you cannot do the translations yourself, nor should evidence be translated by anyone in your family. Translations of press clippings, reviews & journal articles must include the date, issue, and name of the periodical, as well as the author’s name, and title as well as full text of the article or column. Keep clippings of any original articles by you or about you together with the notarized translations.
4. DO Identify & Update Professional References, Keep in Touch with Them
Any O-1 or EB-1 petition must be supported by expert testimonial letters confirming your extraordinary ability, preferably from people with authority to comment in detail on the nature and impact of your work, and the influence you have had on others working in the same field or related fields. These letters should be specific to each reference provider, based on how they know of you or your work and their perspective on what you have contributed to your field. If your career veers into new territory, get new references who are familiar with that part of your body of work.
Most of the testimonial-providers should be people outside of your petitioner/present employer, and hopefully some will be people who first met you or contacted you through professional channels because they were impressed when they heard you give a talk, saw or heard you perform, read a publication by you or about your work, used or purchased a product you developed, etc. Reference providers may include past employers, professors, or colleagues, clients, counterparties to major deals or transactions, editors, critics, curators, etc. Testimonial letters must be on the expert’s professional letterhead and must be accompanied by a copy of their resume, CV, or bio.
5. DON’T Use a Template
Testimonial letters in support of a visa petition should be unique to each provider, and are only persuasive where each letter is really different. The writer should identify his or her professional credentials, level of experience or expertise in the field, and the basis of his or her authority to comment on your work, before discussing your particular achievements, the quality of your work, and how you have influenced the field. Distributing the same sample letter or a template to all your peer experts can be the kiss of death to a case that might otherwise succeed. Even partial repetitions are damaging: if all your testimonial letters contain an identical paragraph or sentence, then all of those letters are less credible. Writers should stick to what distinguishes you professionally, and avoid personal statements. A strong case cannot be built on expert letters alone. Other types of objective evidence are essential to support and corroborate factual statements made in the testimonial letters. Peer experts should be advised that USCIS adjudicators may contact testimonial writers directly to verify the contents of letters submitted.
6. DO Identify the Appropriate Peer Group(s)
A temporary O-1 visa petition must be accompanied by an advisory consultation letter from a labor union or peer group, consenting to the offered employment in the U.S. and confirming that you meet the relevant standard as “extraordinary”. In the O1B performing arts, labor unions must be consulted, and which ones are required will depend on the type of work that is the subject of the petition. In film or television, at least two unions must be consulted, one for labor and one for management. In other fields of endeavor, if there is no union governing employment in your field, then a relevant professional society, institution or trade organization with the right expertise may be consulted. If there is no such peer group in your field, or if you work in a new, interdisciplinary or small and arcane field, then individual experts should be consulted. Discuss this with counsel, as obtaining the peer advisory consultation letter is one of the last steps before an O-1 petition is filed.
7. DO Continue to Build on a Strong Foundation
You can never be too extraordinary or have too much evidence, so keep aspiring to do more, whether that means publishing, performing, submitting your work to juried competitions, or developing new products or business processes. A big collection of documents can always be edited down to showcase the evidence that is strongest. For example, if you already have a large number of press clippings about your work, then identify those articles in major publications that mention you by name and discuss your work favorably or in great detail. If you already have an O1 visa, especially an O-1B in the arts or film, keep in mind that the legal standard for the EB-1A immigrant visa is much higher, so documents that were sufficient for approval of an O-1 petition may not be enough for a green card.